UN: Possible "crimes against humanity" in DR Congo

UN: Possible "crimes against humanity" in DR CongoGeneva  - Reports released Wednesday by the United Nations showed there was a likelihood war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by governmental and rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The alleged crimes include rapes, arbitrary killings, attacks on civilians and pillaging. Most of the worst violations took place between October and December last year in the North Kivu region of the large Central African country.

The groups involved were the Congolese national forces (FARDC) and militias that support them, including the FDLR, a Hutu force. On the rebel front, the reports named the CNDP, a Tutsi group formerly led by Laurent Nkunda, who was arrested by Rwandan soldiers in a cross-border raid earlier this year.

In 1994, Hutu militias killed at least 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus in neighbouring Rwanda.

The latest reports were released jointly by the UN mission in DR Congo, known as MONUC, which includes a peacekeeping force, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

However, the UN peacekeeping force has come under criticism itself from groups like Human Rights Watch (HRW), for allowing severe human rights abuses to take place under its nose.

The mandate of MONUC is to aid and assist the Congolese national forces.

HRW Director Kenneth Roth warned in July that by continuing to back Congolese military operations, the peacekeepers risk becoming complicit in abuses. The majority of the rape cases it had investigated in DR COngo appeared to have been committed by government forces, the New York-based watchdog organization said.

The UN said it aims to ensure that MONUC forces do not participate in joint operations with Congolese forces that would violate international law, but that the underlying support to the troops would not cease.

"It (MONUC) has to support an army, but at same time it is asked to protect civilians in a country roughly the size of Western Europe, without roads or an infrastructure to speak of and large, generally undisciplined armed forces," said Scott Campbell, a spokesman for the UN in DR Congo.

Campbell said MONUC would withdraw its support if it would lead to human rights abuses and would work with the government to "weed out" soldiers who violated international law.(dpa)

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